Chris Kresser was living the dream. After graduating from UC Berkeley at the top of his class, he embarked on a year-long surfing trip around the world, spending three months in Thailand, then Malaysia.
Then something unexpected happened in Indonesia, his next stop. He was surfing near a little village when he came down with a mysterious tropical illness.
“Delirium, vomiting, diarrhea, fever…I didn’t know what was going on,” said 39-year-old Kresser, who was born and raised in Manhattan Beach.
The search for a diagnosis and cure ended up being a decade-long process. After returning to the States (he cut his trip off short), Kresser sought conventional doctors and underwent parasite, blood and stool testing, among others. But the tests didn’t reveal much, so he was relegated to taking round after round of antibiotics, which seemed to make him feel better initially.
It was a temporary solution. Kresser then branched out to alternative medicine, essentially everything he could get his hands on: naturopathic medicine, supplements, herbs, special raw diets, to name a few.
“I was still hoping someone would have the answer, that I would find the right doctor, specialist, energy healer, shaman…then about halfway through I had a pretty significant emotional and physical breakdown,” Kresser said. “I was exhausted from all the years of trying to figure it out. I hit rock bottom. As I came through that difficult time, it became clear to me that no one is more motivated to heal me than me.”
Today, Kresser is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine; his private practice is in Berkeley, where in 2010 he graduated from Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College. NYC-based health website and brand Greatist has named him one of the 50 most influential people in health and fitness, alongside Michelle Obama, Dr. Oz and Deepak Chopra. His personal blog, ChrisKresser.com, has been acclaimed as the top science-oriented blog in the Paleo community.
Most notably, he has written a book called Your Personal Paleo Code, documenting his decade-long research and personal experience in customizing and adopting the paleolithic diet–or the dietary habits of our cavemen ancestors–to optimize one’s health.
Since its release on Dec. 31, the book has debuted on the bestseller lists at New York Times and USA Today.
“The paleo diet was the most googled diet in 2013,” Kresser explained. “It’s a very fast growing trend … It’s definitely in the public consciousness now. A lot of people are just disenchanted with what conventional medicine has to offer.”
The paleo diet primarily consists of fish, grass-fed, pasture-raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi roots and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy, refined salt and sugar as well as processed oil.
But in his book, Kresser argues that not all modern foods are problematic. He said exceptions include dairy, moderate consumptions of alcohol, dark chocolate, potatoes, tomatoes, certain grains and legumes.
“Everyone should start with the basic paleo diet but you can introduce some of the foods I just mentioned to expand your repertoire,” he said. “I argue that the key to succeeding is to personalize the need. We share a lot in common as human beings, but we’re also different in gene expressions, lifestyles, goals … The problem with a lot of popular diets is they prescribe a one-fits-all approach.”
Since learning that the diagnosis of his tropical illness was parasites, he has nursed himself back to health using his personal paleo diet. Now he wants to empower others to take their health into their own hands.
“We have to return to some of this traditional wisdom and get back to a healthier way of eating and living,” he said. “That’s the best way to reduce our medical expenses, preventing disease before it happens at all.”
Kresser will make a stop this Friday at 7 p.m. at Pages Bookstore in Manhattan Beach.